Jennifer Reese
July 28, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A Carnivore's Inquiry

Current Status
In Season
Sabina Murray

We gave it a B-

With a taste for Goya, tequila, and perhaps human blood, Katherine Shea, the pallid, promiscuous young narrator of Sabina Murray’s elegantly written A Carnivore’s Inquiry, is another scorpion you’re not sure you want to curl up with. But at least she never tries to ingratiate herself. Secretive, cerebral, and thoroughly unreliable, 22-year-old Katherine has recently returned to the U.S. from Italy with no particular plans for her life. She starts sponging off a jowly older lover, then heads off in his car on a cross-country trip, leaving behind a trail of men with their throats ripped out. Just about everything Katherine has to say is provocative and intriguing, and she punctuates her travelogue with clever disquisitions on art and cannibalism.

The characters are weird, funny, and original; every sentence crackles, and the dialogue defines punchy. PEN/Faulkner winner Murray is a big talent, and the only piece of her second novel that doesn’t really work is the macabre, sensationalistic plot. Katherine is a smart, strange, and compelling narrator; her eating habits turn out to be the least credible, not to mention the least interesting, thing about her.

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